Politico’s Dirty Little Secret

Several million people will read the website Politico next month. Yet only a tiny fraction of these folks will actually pick up a hard copy of the publication, which circulates for free throughout the Washington D.C. area. Here’s why I note this. According to a case study by CSJ, Politico’s newspaper accounts for nearly two-thirds of the publication’s revenue. The circulation number cited in the study is something like 27,000. I wonder where or what shape Politico might be in if it didn’t have its print component. On the one hand, it’s essential to the site’s business model (a model that’s still operating largely in the red). On the other hand, it remains a secondary consideration for John Harris and Jim VandeHei, who dreamed up Politico only four years ago. They envisioned a publication exclusively on the web. They were reluctant to accept a print side to Politico, even at their financial backer’s urging. Eventually, they gave in. And, if we look at the streams of revenue, probably for the better. It leaves me scratching my head. How essential is print to our online ecosystem? And to what extent does print revenue still propel the news gathering and content that becomes the source for online consumption?

4 thoughts on “Politico’s Dirty Little Secret

  1. As a former journalist who has moved into the world of advising businesses, this is the classic question of not just journalism, but business in general. The issue is what drives customers to your store. In this case, we all carry our electronic devices; we all seek time to read our devices. But to some degree we disengage from the rest of society to drop into that private world created by journalistic prose. The question then becomes what is the best vehicle to get us into the store. From there, the capitalistic question becomes support for what we do. So off of the act of getting us “into the store” becomes the query of the societal habit of what vehicle to we choose to buy.
    Personally, I find pop-up ads that cover up internet work annoying to such a level that I might avoid a site. Some ads that run in parallel to electronics catch my eye; some ads don’t. The definitiveness of the purchasing motivation as it relates to the ad as both relate to the placement is definitely the operative question. Your query transcends journalism into many fields. It is an issue well worth study. We’ll continue to follow your posts at the Fisher Law Office (www.thefisherlawoffice.com) and will blog our parallel studies at thefisherlawoffice.wordpress.com. We look forward to your future work on this.

  2. Well said. I never thought I would agree with this opinion, but I’m starting to see things from a different point of view. I have to study more on this as it looks very interesting. One thing I don’t understand though is how everything is related together.

  3. Great review! You actually covered some curious news here. I came across it by using Bing and I’ve got to admit that I already subscribed to the RSS feed, will be following you on my iphone 🙂

  4. Interesting. Now here’s the part I don’t get–why, from the advertiser’s point of view, would you pay more for print advertising than online? Millions will see it, rather than the tens of thousands who may or may not grab a copy of Politico’s print edition. And you can measure their reaction. I understand that now companies can use the web to connect directly to consumers, so they are reluctant to advertise online, but that doesn’t explain why they are willing to throw money away on paper ads that are ostensibly worth less, reach fewer people, and have no metrics. What publishers need to do is create a new relationship with advertisers. In exchange for a higher quality, larger, more interactive ad (sponsored posting, interstitial, preroll, prominent banner in an email message, whatever), the publisher should be able to charge a higher CPM. Or so it seems to me. Web advertising isn’t just worthless because advertisers don’t want to pay for it–it’s also worthless because websites are doing a horrible job of selling it.

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